Sometimes you just don’t have the time to squeeze in a midday workout (or you really need that extra hour or so to sleep in). It can be hard to exercise at your ideal time, like right after work or to get your day started off strong.
But if you’re really dedicated to your training regimen and want to stay on track, you might end up doing a few nighttime workouts that can be pretty close to bedtime. If you are working out late in the evening, you want to make sure to avoid any mistakes that can lead to poor sleep and reduce your fitness gains or impact your training performance the following day.
There’s nothing wrong with working out at night, as long as you make sure you’re giving your body the treatment it needs to refuel post-workout, snooze soundly, and wake up feeling recharged and agile.
Watch out for these common mishaps after an evening training session, all of which could hinder your performance and lead to burn out and fatigue.
Eating a Large Meal Right Before the Session
Ravenous after a long day of work, but you still have to work out? Find the willpower to not shovel food into your mouth. Instead, enjoy a light snack that’ll satisfy a bit of the hunger and not lead to digestive distress mid-workout.
“Eating too much right before your session can both throw off the session and throw off your recovery so you don’t sleep well and are tired in the morning,” Kat Wiersum, trainer and instructor at Studio Three and Amplified Pilates Center in Chicago, said.
Make sure you eat enough to be fueled, but not too much where you might feel sick during your session. An example? A banana with a bit of nut butter.
Not Eating After Your Session
Because exercise can have an appetite suppression effect on many people, you might not be hungry after working out. But you still want to eat something prior to going to bed, or else you could cause muscle damage due to inadequate nutrition and repair.
Or you may think you want to save the calories, not eat afterwards, and just fall asleep. This is wrong though — your body needs the protein and carbs to repair muscles and wake up feeling energized and strong. Get something in your stomach, no matter how small, as long as it has some protein and carbs.
OR Eating Too Much After the Session
Don’t go overboard and eat a massive meal after the session — and definitely don't mindlessly munch snacks on your couch while binging Netflix for the next few hours. This will derail your progress and it could cause digestive discomfort to make it harder for you to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.
“Keep your recovery meal light but satisfying, and really prioritize the protein to carb ratio of your food for recovery,” she explained. “Chocolate milk is actually a great post-workout beverage to get the nutrients you need to reset, and a small sandwich or salad with a protein will be helpful to recharge without overdoing it.”
Not Stretching or Cooling Down Properly
You may want to skip the stretching if you’re worried about how late at night it is (and just shower and jump into bed), but this can actually lead to taxing the muscles and promoting soreness.
Make sure you properly cool down and stretch after your session, for two reasons.
“For one, if you jump right from an intense training session to trying to go to bed, you’re not repairing your body," she said. "And two, it’s not going to happen. You are likely somewhat awake and wired at this time, and simply getting into bed doesn’t mean you will automatically fall asleep within minutes.
“Let your body cool down and start to signal to your brain that it’s time to end the day, as this will ensure you get your good night of sleep no matter how hard you train,” she added.
And, you will be able to stretch your body out to avoid overuse or injury.
Not Being Consistent if You are a Nighttime Regular
Keep your eating habits and workout routines the same if you’re going to be a nighttime exerciser on the regular during training.
“If you always eat dinner at 7 p.m. and are in bed by 9, then don’t try to train at 7 p.m. and then eat dinner and wind down,” she explained.
It’s best to not go back and forth with dissimilar times, but rather to keep everything consistent.
“Keep as much of your routine as consistent as possible, because if you throw off your nightly routine too much, it will be really tough to wind down and get the sleep you need to recharge,” she said.
Booking a Morning Training Session the Next Day
If you are working out late at night, then don’t schedule your next day’s training session to be bright and early in the morning.
“Make sure you’re mindful of what you have going on the next morning,” she said. “If you go from having a training session at night and plan for another in the morning, that’s really tough to turn around and is a recipe for an exhausted day."
Let yourself fully recover before taking on any additional training — you need those extra hours for restoration.